An early version of this song can be found in John Ross Browne's Etchings of a Whaling Cruise, 1846. Browne describes the crew meeting at a bar before his first voyage. Captain Bill Salt gives a familiar toast:
Be cheery, my lads, may your hearts never fail while the bold harpooner is striking the whale!
After the toast was met and glasses were emptied, cigars and pipes were produced. Salt then delivered the Parting Moments "ditty" which was met with rapturous applause. As the men exit the building one-by-one, the bar-keep calls aside Browne and another naive young sailor, explaining that it is customary for the greenhorns to foot the bill.
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Farewell, my lovely Nancy, Ten thousand times adjeu! I'm agoing for to cross the ocean In sarch of something new. Come, change a ring wid me, my dear, Come change a ring wid me; And that will be my fond toaken When I am on the sea- When I am on the sea, And you don't know where I be.
Now one fond kiss, my Nancy dear, Now one fond kiss for me, Before I go for to begin To roam upon the sea. And hear this secret of my heart: Wid the best of my good-will, Be where it may, this poor body, Is yourn, sween Nancy, still- Is yourn, sweet Nancy, still, Wid the best of my good-will.
John Ross Browne in Etchings of a Whaling Cruise (1846)